A matter of taste
When your new coffee arrives through the post, freshly packed and airtight, you feel very excited, well I know I do. You open the pack and that beautiful smell hits you. There are only two aromas that I love that much, that’s coffee, and the other is the fresh smell of print. They smell so beautiful and evoke such memories, your favourite book, your favourite moment, where you were when you had a fresh cup of coffee, with someone or alone.
What did that taste like?
There’s only one thing that bothers me though when a fresh packet of coffee arrives, and that’s the list of aromas and tastes you should be getting from the cup. I feel under pressure, that I must be able to taste the walnut, fruit, toffee or chocolate flavours and if I don’t, then I clearly haven’t learnt much about coffee. I’m new to being a coffee connoisseur, so where am I going wrong, and is there something wrong with my taste buds?
Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) – flavour wheel
Above is the coffee wheel of flavours from the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA), and if that sends you into a tailspin then try not to panic.
The taste, or notes are subtle but if it’s described with flavour notes, it doesn’t really mean it’s been flavoured in this way, they’re just kind of incidental. They’re meant to be subtle, but, how do you actually start to taste them?
In the past, you may have drunk coffee and expected to taste coffee, so you’ve not been looking for anything else. But now you’ve gone on to being a coffee connoisseur, being able to separate and pull apart the flavours is no easy task.
No milk or sugar for me
If, in the past, you’ve always enjoyed coffee with milk or cream and with plenty of sugar, then this will have largely masked any taste, however for speciality, artisan coffees, this won’t help you taste the flavour notes. This means that you won’t be able to taste the natural taste from the coffee beans, so no matter how tempted you are, it may be best to simply drink the coffee as it is, without adding anything.
Contrast and compare
You may have a better chance of tasting the flavour notes is if you compare them to other ones, so you can either buy one or two at the same time, or save your coffees until you have at least more than one. This way you can compare the different tastes, but there are other brewing methods you can try as well to enhance the flavours. Immersion brewing is one way, or you could change the equipment you use to brew the coffee. It does help if the grounds are immersed in water before you filter it, a French Press is one way of doing it. Always make sure the water to coffee ratio is even. Finally, write down what you taste, it doesn’t matter how simple your descriptions are.
And just as importantly, don’t feel under pressure, it’s not a competition, your palate is getting accustomed to lots of different tastes and flavours that it’s not used to, and it’ll take time for it adjust. Just enjoy the coffee, because that’s why I joined a coffee club, to enjoy drinking coffee rather than gulping it down before 9am. It’s not to be rushed, but savoured, the rest will follow.